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10-31-2009, 10:40 AM   #61
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QuoteOriginally posted by Peter Zack Quote
There's nothing even close to B&W film in the digital world.
If you're not developing your own BW film, then I'd argue, yes, digital is closer than you think. How are you going to compress and expand your tones when someone else is developing your film with a developer you don't even know what they are using?


BW film is all about you finding your film/developer combo and tuning into it, IMHO. That is where you will get extra light range and more tone control; otherwise, you'll just be doing "average" shooting.

10-31-2009, 12:03 PM   #62
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
If you're not developing your own BW film, then I'd argue, yes, digital is closer than you think. How are you going to compress and expand your tones when someone else is developing your film with a developer you don't even know what they are using?


BW film is all about you finding your film/developer combo and tuning into it, IMHO. That is where you will get extra light range and more tone control; otherwise, you'll just be doing "average" shooting.
As a semi-retired professional I continue to shoot both film and digital.

I not only have fun with film, but also make a bit of money with it.

My use of film involves a hybrid approach. I do all my own scanning and image editing, and all prints up to 12x18. One thing I have going for me is that as an archival speciallist I began going digital with photo reproduction in the early 1990s and have scanned and corrected large numbers of technically difficult images. As a result, scanning and editing my own high-quality film work is child's play.

I have nearly stopped using 35mm colour as digital is excellent. I do shoot a lot of 35mm black and white, largely for the fun of using my old Pentax gear, but also because I prefer the results to black and white conversions of digital files.

For more serious work I use medium format. My standard scan resolution produces files 12,000 pixels across- well beyond the capability of any digital camera that I could conceivably afford. My main professional interest now is selling fine art to the interior design/coporate market, where this sort of quality is essential.

I process conventional black and white films myself for quality reasons. It's important to have clean negatives because Digital Ice doesn't work with these films. It's also important to avoid the major risk of commercial black and white processing- overdevelopment, which leads to blocked up highlights and excessive grain.

Note that chromogenic black and white films can be processed in a minilab with excellent results. My favourite is Ilford XP2. Extremely sharp with beautiful tonal rendition. It would be my only black and white film if I didn't enjoy messing around with film developing.

I do disagree with tuco regarding manipulation of development in order to adjust density range and tonal rendition. This sort of thing had some value in the old days, especially before high-quality variable contrast papers were available. Now it's just an unnecessary complication. (Yes, I go back that far! Remember the Zone System?)

In a hybrid system all you need is negatives that are adequately exposed, and processed to produce a reasonable contrast range. Fine tuning is much better done in Photoshop than in the developing tank. Keep it simple.

Much more important to image quality is proper scanning, which is almost unattainable even from custom labs. You should definitely do that yourself, especially if you are serious about black and white. A thorough understanding of basic image editing is also essential. Most significantly, you need to know what a good print should look like.

I have to say that a lot of the film scans I see on the Web look like sheer butchery to me.

You might wantt to check out my website: John Poirier Photography

Cheers

John
10-31-2009, 12:13 PM   #63
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QuoteOriginally posted by John Poirier Quote



I do disagree with tuco regarding manipulation of development in order to adjust density range and tonal rendition. This sort of thing had some value in the old days, especially before high-quality variable contrast papers were available. Now it's just an unnecessary complication. (Yes, I go back that far! Remember the Zone System?)


John
John, if it's not on the negative, you're not going to get it on paper or scan, period. What I'm talking about is getting more on the negative. So, yes, it has just as much value today as back then.

Here is a N-2 compression back when I used a densitometer to measure my negatives. I don't think you'd get this much light range with average development. In fact I'm sure of it. This shot is in deep shadows of the forest with strong, bright light coming in. There is hardly a high or low value that doesn't have detail.


Last edited by tuco; 10-31-2009 at 02:27 PM.
10-31-2009, 05:37 PM   #64
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
John, if it's not on the negative, you're not going to get it on paper or scan, period. What I'm talking about is getting more on the negative. So, yes, it has just as much value today as back then.

Here is a N-2 compression back when I used a densitometer to measure my negatives. I don't think you'd get this much light range with average development. In fact I'm sure of it. This shot is in deep shadows of the forest with strong, bright light coming in. There is hardly a high or low value that doesn't have detail.
Compression/expansion is a real pain with 35mm film. My approach with 35mm was to use a semi-compensating developer (FG-7 1:15) to save the shadows and then do the bulk of contrast management during the print phase. Sort of a shotgun solution, but it worked well for me even with difficult subjects such as our Pacific coast rain forests. I got much better results than I would have using commercial processing while still retaining the convenience of supporting a wide mix of subject contrast regimes on a single roll.

Going back to the OP's comment...Given the last few comments, I guess maybe the concept of a simple film shot may be a bit of any overstatement.

Steve

10-31-2009, 07:12 PM   #65
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
... I got much better results than I would have using commercial processing while still retaining the convenience of supporting a wide mix of subject contrast regimes on a single roll.

Steve
Neat technique. It confirms my point in my first post. You'll get better results rolling your own than sending out to a lab with BW film.
10-31-2009, 09:50 PM   #66
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
John, if it's not on the negative, you're not going to get it on paper or scan, period. What I'm talking about is getting more on the negative. So, yes, it has just as much value today as back then.

Here is a N-2 compression back when I used a densitometer to measure my negatives. I don't think you'd get this much light range with average development. In fact I'm sure of it. This shot is in deep shadows of the forest with strong, bright light coming in. There is hardly a high or low value that doesn't have detail.

For those of you who don't know what N-2 compression means, it is a reference to Ansel Adams' Zone system, which is a methodical approach to exposing and processing sheet film. It is also of considerable value in dealing with roll film, although limited because you can't process frames individually.

That's a really beautiful photograph tuco. Thanks for posting it.

However, I still disagree with you technically. Perhaps you didn't notice, but in my earlier posting I mentioned that I have worked as an archival specialist dealing with some very difficult images. In fact, I operated a high-end imaging lab for 20 years. I have extensive experience with sensitometry, including developing and maintaining systems for print copying, one and two-step black and white negative duplication, and colour film duplication- all on 4x5 film. My work with a denstiometer included film speed measurements, regular plotting of film response curves, and ongoing monitoring of developer replenishment in large developing tanks. I shot two to three thousand sheets of 4x5 film per year at a quality level equal to or better than Canada's National Archives. As previously mentioned, I also have considerable experience with scanning at a comparable level of expertise.

I'm not in the habit of making unfounded statements about basic black and white fim issues.

The shot below was done on TriX developed normally. As you can see, the lighting was similar to that in your shot. The spruce needles were covered with frost, creating a contrast range equaling or exceeding that of your shot. The highlights in the negative were quite dense but well within the dynamic range of my scanner. There was no difficulty rendering highlight detail. There is also plenty of shadow detail, as I was generous with exposure.

Yes, I'm sure my negative is more contrasty than your negative, but that doesn't really matter anymore (given a good scanner) unless highlights are extremely "blocked up" to the point where significant detail/tonal info is obscured. On the other hand, I'm certain your negative would be a lot easier to print in a conventional darkroom!

Using N- processing is not in itself going to "get more on the negative".

Exposure is how you get information on the negative. Adequate exposure produces good shadow detail. Development acts unevenly on the image, adding proportionately more density to areas with more exposure. Hence the old saying, "Expose for shadows, develop for highlights."

N- development reduces negative contrast, particulary highlight density, in high-contrast lighting situations. It modifies the placement of highlights on the film curve, helping to keep them on the straight line section of the curve rather than on the shoulder. This facilitates printing on medium-contrast papers in the darkroom. It does not add information. More accurately, N- development protects against loss of information due to "blocking up" of highlights.

My comment about keeping things simple was made in the context of this group. Pentax users are likely to work only with roll film, which is not conducive to customized processing of individual frames. They are also more likely to be scanning images rather than printing in a conventional darkroom. Keeping it simple means being generous with exposure to give shadow detail, and using moderate develpment times to keep highlights open as well as minimizing grain.

Cheers



(Shot with a Leica. Oh well.)
10-31-2009, 11:08 PM   #67
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Thanks, John. I was looking straight into the Sun's direction. Yours looks like the Sun is on the right. Bit of a difference. But do you see any reduced contrast on my shot? It looks good to me. And it printed fine on grade 2 paper too. And you can do this with your roll film; you do not need sheet film. I do it with my 120 roll film all the time. One in particular is the Astoria Column shot in 120 where I compressed there too you can see in my gallery.

Last edited by tuco; 10-31-2009 at 11:14 PM.
11-04-2009, 01:24 PM   #68
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@John Poirier
Mind sharing what you use to scan with and your workflow?

Also I'm just starting to get into B&W, both 35mm and sheet film, but have yet to develop any. I know there are a lot of tutorials out there, but if you have the time, I and many others on the boards would really love a walk trough/tutorial from someone with your level of expertise.

If there are others that are interested in doing it, I think a walk through on film developing would be a really great resource for everyone here.


Off topic a bit:
As an alternative to darkroom printing I'm looking into carbon transfer printing. From my very limited understanding of the process, it gets exposed with UV light and is typically printed by contact rather than enlarger. Seems like a time consuming process, but an alternative for those of us without access to a traditional darkroom. Plus it might be a fun process.

Link: Carbon Symposium
Link: Carbon Printing

11-07-2009, 02:08 PM   #69
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I'm going to weigh in here as a viewer and say firstly that Tuco, those shots of yours in the Gallery and elsewhere are amazing, really striking and distinctive compositions. Bravo! However, one or two of them - I'm thinking in particular of the forest images, such as the one posted here - show a lack of separation in the mid-greys to my eye. There's something just not quite 'right' about them, compared to John's forest image with its relatively linear tonality. I can imagine them being quite hard to successfully print large.

Whether what I'm seeing is the result of your developing technique or a scanning issue, I don't know. They certainly do look 'compressed'. Whether it matters is even more doubtful, because these are very interesting work. But I wouldn't pick them as examples of perfect tonal rendition.
11-07-2009, 06:20 PM   #70
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I think digital has put the fun into photography. Even young children have camera and sharing with their friends and family.My interest in film was limited to family snaps and travelling. The cost of processing and equipment was out of my reach bringing up a family.
But I never experienced the excitement of developing my own work. I think it has made photgraphy lazy.I seem to fire off a few until I get what I want.
Each for their own I guess.
John
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